By Tim Stannard
It's mathematics vs. soccer as Barcelona begin a battle to close down a four-point gap on Real Madrid in four games
Four games to go. Four points to make up on Real Madrid.
That's the reality of Barcelona's soccer life on Wednesday as the defending champions put the pedal to the metal in the final lap of the 2019-20 LaLiga season - a peculiar one to say the least.
Quique Setien still believes in the league title dream - "of course we can still win LaLiga. Mathematics say it" - but if Barca are to overtake Real Madrid on the last lap then his players will need to be all Fast and Furious, hoping their opponents in the finale are....er...Slow and Content and drop points in at least two games.
The last gasps of Barcelona's title challenge begin at the Camp Nou on Wednesday in a city derby against an Espanyol side that is rock bottom of the standings and will be relegated if it fails to beat Barcelona.
Recent history suggests that this will be the fate of the Pericos, who are 11 points from safety with just 12 to play for. Barca is unbeaten in the team's past 21 LaLiga games against their city rivals.
It's a sad decline for an Espanyol team that finished seventh last season but had a horrendous time of it this time around, sacking three coaches in a lamentable campaign in LaLiga.
However, Espanyol's plight is of no concern for Quique Setien, who has his own future to look out for...or not as the feisty Barcelona coach claimed on Tuesday. "The club are happy with the work we do, I focus on that," said Setien batting off talk of a swift Barca exit in a fortnight's time.
"I've outgrown these moments of football and its circus for a long time. I'm just doing my job."
Coverage of Barcelona against Espanyol begins on beIN SPORTS at 3:30PM ET. However, the build-up gets going from Barcelona in the Sports Burst live show at 12PM ET on our beIN SPORTS USA Facebook page and XTRA channel.
There are two other matches taking place in LaLiga today with the European places battle between Getafe vs. Villarreal on beIN XTRA - free! free! free! - while Real Betis takes on Osasuna on beIN CONNECT. Both matches kick off at 2:30PM ET.
MLS is Back tournament gets underway in Florida bubble
Wednesday sees the kick-off of the MLS is Back tournament...or rather the MLS is Mostly Back Tournament.
FC Dallas has already been cut from the event due to the number of positive tests in the team's camp. Nashville SC might well go the same way. Five players have already tested positive with four results from the group currently 'inconclusive.' This saw the team's opener on Wednesday against Chicago Fire postponed with the team unable to train at all so far due to being locked down in quarantine.
That leaves just the single match on Wednesday and it's the freshly-conceived Florida Derby between Orlando City and Inter Miami. The game is kicking off a tournament that is going to be fluid, with games being reshuffled and groups being reorganized on the fly.
However, according to MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, all is good in North America's soccer bubble. "They’re comfortable. They’re training. They’re eating. They’re recreating. They’re doing the things in accordance with our protocols. They’re wearing masks. They’re socially distancing. They’re managing their lives in a bubble," reported Garber.
NBA teams continue to arrive for league restart
More NBA teams are set to enter their own basketball-inspired bubble in Florida to begin both quarantine and preseason training ahead the league's planned restart on July 30. By the end of Thursday, all 22 teams participating will be in place.
Those lucky / unlucky enough to make it to the playoff finals will not be able to leave the basketball bubble until October. That leaves plenty of time to post photos of disappointing meals being delivered to players' rooms which is the current fad for athletes with not much else to do at the moment.
However, like the MLS experience, the NBA's prospects of finishing the season is also going to be driven by the COVID-19 virus. "If we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again," admitted NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver.
While the NBA and MLS are giving it a go, the 2020 Ryder Cup due to be held in September in Wisconsin is set to be moved to 2021 in an announcement expected on Wednesday.
The prospect of the absence of legions of American golf fans, clad in khaki shorts and polo tops yelling abuse at the visiting European players makes the tournament not worth attempting this year.